Hi! Long time subscriber, first forum post! I want to get a feel for how some of you use the metronome to track progress. Say you are learning a new lick slowly at say 60-80bpm. After how many minutes or reps of an exercise do you start to bump the tempo up, and by how much? Then after you’ve increased the tempo, what do you start with the next day? For example if you take an exercise from 75 bpm up to 90 bpm during a practice session, do you start at 75 the next day and go through the whole process again or bump up the starting tempo a little more? Or maybe go straight to 90? For me when I practice something the first day I’ll bump up the metronome 2 bpm every 20 clean reps or so. The next day or after a few days depending the exercise it will feel easier but I still feel compelled to start at the same tempo at which I learned it, but lowering the reps between bumps of the metronome and increasing the intervals of the bumps from 2bpm to 5bpm or even 10bpm. Am I wasting my time? How do you guys do it? Also, how do you split up your time between metronome work and “bursting”?
This is a bit of a loaded question because the answer is that sometimes the best approach is no metronome. And not really because of the metronome per se, but because of the assumptions behind it.
For example, there are a number of scenarios where trying to play things slowly and “correctly” simply doesn’t work because there’s no way to actually know if the movements you’re making are correct at slow speeds. Yes, you can verify that the notes are correct when playing slowly, but that’s not the same thing as verifying that the movements are correct. If you’re using stringhopping, simply verifying that the notes are correct and clicking the metronome a little higher each day isn’t going to do anything. Eventually, you’ll reach a speed where you can’t go any faster and no amount of repetition is going to change that.
On the flip side, situations where a metronome can be useful in terms of motor learning are things like training yourself away from stringhopping movements, and also for taking technique that is already efficient, and making it faster. But this type of training all takes place at the upper limit of your speed range, not the lower limit. It is rapid, burst-oriented weight training type practice of the sort that @milehighshred has spent a lot of time thinking about.
So the short answer is, if you’re trying to learn picking technique, I would tread very carefully with the “slow and get faster” metronome-style training. The more we learn about technique, the better we understand when it is and is not appropriate.
Often I found myself in the scenario Troy described: practicing stringhoppy movements at slow speeds because of the metronomic obsession, and being unable to raise the bar because the movement was flawed.
Something I’m trying to do these days is to first practice something without metronome to figure out the movements, then switch on the metronome at a speed that is unattainable with string hopping but slow enough that you are not killing yourself. Then also a bit of random sprinting in between. It seems a good method so far but I’ll let you know how it goes later on
while I’m far from a virtuoso, I’ve found the “burst” technique to be the fastest way to train myself on new patterns and shapes. I’ll start with three reps in half-time then I’ll sneak in one double-time rep. Then when this becomes more consistent I’ll do two double-timed reps in a row. Then I’ll start taking away half-time reps. Sometimes I’ll adjust the number of reps so that the phrasing and accents line up nicely with the metronome counts, although playing a syncopated, off-beat phrase might be good practice in itself once you’re confident with the pattern
I’m a huge fan of the metronome and find it’s great to use in most situations. Going off of what you said is your metronome approach, this is not friendly for building speed. It is overkill, and you will make very little speed progress. I’ll share a video on when metronome practice doesn’t work, then give my approach to metronome practice geared towards speed (which is what I do, and have my students do, and it works wonders for us): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTPpa5PnxKE
If you want more details as to why I approach things this way, let me know. For now, I’ll keep it short and simple.
- No matter what it is you are playing/practicing, start at 60 BPM.
- Play your exercise/lick/riff/whatever correctly ONE TIME and ONE TIME ONLY and then bump up your metronome NO MORE than 5 BPM.
- Keep doing this until you can’t play correctly anymore.
- Rest for a minute, then try again. (sometimes you can keep going faster if you wait a moment and then try again a few more times. It’s important to PUSH YOURSELF as far as you can go for MAX results)
- WRITE DOWN how fast you got so you know what to try beating the next time.
- Next practice session, START AT 60 BPM. This is great for not only warming up BOTH HANDS but also your brain.
That’s the short and simple explanation of how I work with the metronome, and how I tell students do to it. I have several variations to try, but only when it’s necessary. No need to try everything all at once. It is so important to KEEP IT SIMPLE as much as possible!
I’d like to finish with this - just because different muscle groups are used at varying speeds as you get faster and faster does NOT mean you should just bypass a good warm up by starting slow and working your way up. You need to learn what it feels like to begin going from what set of mechanics to another as you get faster and faster. Metronome practice, done properly, will get you there. Don’t force yourself to stay in a specific hand/arm position either. Let your body make changes when it feels necessary. Besides, your fretting hand mechanics don’t really change from playing slow to fast. At least, not that I’ve noticed.
I practice with a metronome and a timer. If I had to choose between one of those two, I’ll choose the timer.
If I’m working on a new motor skill (i.e. two way pickslanting with my the distal phalanx of my index finger over-extended + forearm rotation and ~wrist flex/ext) I will choose a speed very low, and not change it for the whole session. I settle on three exercices : A, B and C, not all on the same concept/motor skill and interleave them like : A 2 min, B 2 min and C 2 min. I do the all thing three time (ABC, ABC, ABC) for a ~20 minutes.
The main point here is the interleaving practice and not changing the metronome during a session. So it’s not the “slow and get faster” technique per se.
I groups of these 20 minutes ABCx3 for 40 min to 1h40, sometimes several sessions in a day and it works insanely better than when I didn’t knew cracking the code and interleaving practice.
For endurance and pure speed, once the movement is there, I do procede with speeding up the metronome (or guitar pro playback) but it’s mainly on songs. I interleave the riffs, first timing 2 min each, then going half the song.
All progress from previous day is gone in the next day, is this normal?
I’ve been using this strategy for the past few days and while it kinda sounds like a drag on paper, I feel pretty good after a session of this. My favorite aspect of it is how relaxed and “in control” I feel when I go back for a 2nd run starting at 60 after crashing at a top speed. Even when I’m getting into the upper realm of my playing (say 80%) I feel pretty nimble. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
Glad you are finding it useful
Simply put -
I use metronome when;
-Learning licks at slow-medium speed to ensure timing and synchronisation is good
- Building stamina (using incremental practice with licks that I can play with consistancy
- Checking that I can play licks at the speed required for the song
- Finding the speed at which I’m starting to struggle and sticking around that tempo (this was echoed in a youtube video by Martin Miller recently
I don’t use metronome when trying to work on motion mechanics as it is more about feel and reducing tension. This freetime playing helps build awareness of how I am doing things and can experinent without the judgment of the click!!
Just posted the below on another thread, but follows on from what I put above:
Recently I made the observation that I often do the ‘Going slow and working with the metronome’ when I’m not fully warmed up and I don’t think that is wise, as I stumble a bit on the the mid-tempos as I’m not warmed up, not because I can’t generally play it, which leads to a sense of frustration. What I try to do now is:
-Warm up gently with some chords and songs
- Then take what I’m working on (2WPS or crosspicking) and spend a few mins repeating chunks at medium and fast tempos WITHOUT a metronome. This helps work on the mechanics at speed, remove unwanted tension and experience what it feels like at fast tempos. Tge top speed is sloppy as hell!
- then the metronome comes out and start slow. I get to the medium fast tempos pretty easy as I’m warmed up and synched up by then. With the metronome I get to the speed where it is getting quite sloppy and back the tempo down and rev it back up and beyond in a seni random fashion, irrespective of how clean it is. After a while you acheive more cleanliness at what was originally sloppy. I don’t seem to be able to improve beyond that in a single session, so time to stop (preventing burnout!)
Understanding that if you want to play fast, you need to play fast, I typically start with as fast a pace as I can with no accents and align the riff with every beep of the metronome. This may be as slow as 60bpm or less depending on the number of notes in the riff and the difficulty. I then ease the tempo up as quickly as I can. When I hit the max of 252bpm like this, I will then dial it back down and find a good tempo and then use each beep of the riff this time as a starting point to do the whole riff. Again, you may be back down under 100bpm, but now you’re playing the whole riff repeatedly and it should be pretty quick.